Phalaris spp.



Phalaris spp.

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Phalaris spp.

Botanical information

Phalaris aquatica: A perenniel plant, it grows to a height of 0.6m with a spread of 0.4 m. The stem is erect, stout and smooth; the leaves are long, flat, 1cm wide and grass-like, the flowers are pale green to beige, occurring in terminal panicles and appearing in early summer.

A native of Southern Europe, but distributed as pasture grass all over the world, it prefers moist soils with a minimum annual rainfall of 500mm, in a sunny position, and is frost resistant but drought tender.

Propagation is by seed or division. Plants are self sterile and need at least two plants grown from different seed to pollinate. Early seedlings are prone to infections and should not be transplanted for the first few months. This is especially troublesome with the AQ1 variety. We strongly suggest direct seeding of all varieties for better vigour.

There are many different varieties of Phalaris aquatica displaying some very different growth habits. AUSTRALIAN, SEEDMASTER, MARU and UNETA have vigorous growth only in spring and autumn, while SIROSA, HOLDFAST and their derivatives are autumn, winter and spring active. SIROCCO and EL GOLEA are summer dormant.

Variety HARDING (USA) was exported to Australia in 1884 and was renamed there as variety AUSTRALIA. The seed imported from Argentinia into New Zealand was named MARU but appears to be almost identical to AUSTRALIA. This is not surprising, as Phalaris grass was first introduced to Argentinia from Australia. SIROSA was bred in Australia from AUSTRALIAN and selected Italian strains. SIROCCO and EL GOLEA were developed in Australia from Moroccan strains for drought hardiness. SIROLAN is a derivative of SIROCCO. HOLDFAST and UNETA are derivatives of AUSTRALIAN.


Phalaris arundinacea: (Reed Canary Grass, Ribbon Grass) A perenniel plant, it grows to a height of 1.5m with a spread of 0.5 m. The stem is erect, stout and smooth; the leaves are long, flat, 2cm wide and reed-like, the flowers are pale green or purplish, occurring in terminal panicles and appearing in summer.

A native of Europe and North America, it prefers moist, wet soils in marshes or at the edges of ponds and river banks, and is frost resistant but drought tender.

Propagation is by seed or division. Plants are self sterile and need at least two plants grown from different seed to pollinate.


Traditional uses

No traditional uses of these plants are recorded. Use by Australian Aboriginees (as suggested by C. Raetsch) is unlikely as this species was only introduced to Australia in 1884 by Mr.R.R. Harding from sources in North America. It may possibly have arrived undocumented the year before directly from its native Italy.

Phalaris aquatica is recognised all over the world as a valuable and hardy pasture grass.


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